The start of the new year is a fresh opportunity to make the most of your money and improve your finances. New year’s resolutions for weight loss and home organization are popular, but don’t forget to make the most of the upcoming year by making specific financial resolutions, too.
Here are 25 simple and easy ways you can improve your finances in the year ahead.
Choose a major financial goal that excites you.
I find myself most motivated when I choose a major, big, huge, scary financial goal to achieve.
Whether it’s paying off your car, maxing out your retirement accounts, or even striving to pay off a mortgage within a few years, focus on one goal that improve your finances and will push you beyond what’s comfortable.
Don’t just pick a goal that you think you should want. Choose something that will motivate *you* to work harder and make your finances better.
If you don’t care about real estate, don’t pick saving up for a home down payment. Choose saving $10K for an overseas trip or paying off your student loan debt if that gets you excited instead.
Automate bill paying.
Putting your bills on auto-pilot saves you money on stamps and envelopes and improves your finances almost immediately. You’re also less likely to incur late fees from forgetting to pay. Make it a goal to simplify your life this year by auto-paying your bills through your bank or by putting them on a credit card.
Pay all purchases with a cash back or travel rewards card.
If you’ve got a handle on your debt and can use a credit card without paying interest, try putting all of your purchases on a cash back or travel rewards card. In many cases, you can even pay bills with a credit card to maximize your points.
Use a professional bill trimming service.
One way you can stop wasting money and improve your finances is by automating your finances with a trusted company called Trim. Trim makes it easy to find extra money to pay off debt since they automatically work with your service providers to get you the best rates. And what if you didn’t have to call each subscription you have to save money? Outsource the pain of recurring bills by signing up with Trim.
If you’re not maxing your retirement contributions, increase your contribution by 1-2%.
Saving for retirement is something everyone should be doing to improve their finances. If you aren’t already maxing out your retirement contributions, focus on increasing your contributions by at least 1% or 2% this year.
For most retirement plans, you can increase your contributions online or by contacting your human resources department.
Update your will and beneficiaries on your accounts.
Don’t forget to review your will to make sure it’s current and update any beneficiaries on your insurance policies or retirement plans.
Clean out old paperwork/files and digitally archive them.
Being organized financially massively simplifies your life. It makes it easier to see where your money is stored, allows you to pay bills faster and easier, and just generally makes life simpler.
To organize and improve your finances, take a few steps:
- Discard any ads, magazines, or papers you don’t want. Shred any personal documents, statements, or receipts you no longer need.
- Digitally scan and save as many papers as you can. Save to an online storage system so you have perpetual access to your financial paperwork.
- File any remaining paperwork and place in a dry location.
Post your financial goals somewhere where you’ll see them every day.
Once you’ve made goals, stay focused on them by keeping them in your direct line of sight.
I like to post mine on an index card by my computer desk and in the mirror in my bathroom.
Cut one unnecessary bill from your life and direct the savings to your savings account.
Review all of your current bills and expenses. Look for a service or bill that you no longer use – like a streaming service you’ve tired of or a gym membership you’ve never taken advantage of. Call or write to cancel and set up an automatic transfer of the bill amount to your savings account.
Declutter and get paid for it.
Go through every room, closet, and drawer in your home. Make a pile of items you’d be willing to sell. Choose a method of selling – whether online through selling apps or marketplaces or by hosting a garage sale. Then immediately post your items for sale or start advertising your yard sale. What’s left over you can donate but add the extra money you earn to your savings goal for the year.
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Do you have three to six months of expenses? If not, figure out how much you’d need and divide by the months left in the year. Set up a transfer to your emergency fund so it’s fully funded by years’ end.
Keep cash on hand in case of emergencies.
I’m great about saving but terrible about having emergency cash available. However, if a natural disaster or other emergency struck, I’d be stuck without access to cash if ATMs weren’t available. This year I plan to make my finances better by keeping a small amount of cash on hand just in case.
Identify your spending priorities for the year – and set up savings categories in your budget.
It’s one thing to set a goal – but another to put the actions in place to make it happen. Work backward from your big goal and set monthly targets to reach it. For example, if you want to pay off your $150,000 mortgage in 5 years, you’d need an extra $2,000 per month in payments to get it done. If you want to save $15,000 to pay your kid’s tuition by December, you’d need to put away $1,250 every month starting in January.
Consider your career options.
Can you update your resume or ask for a raise in the coming year? Increasing your income is a key way to improve your finances.
Don’t forget to make use of employee benefits you let go to waste in the last year, including health care benefits or employee reimbursements.
Start a side hustle.
Once you’ve maxed out money savings from your current budget, aim to start a side business or activity to increase your income. Or you could fill out the best paid online surveys for money to add to your monthly bottom line.
- Make Money from Home with 10 Easy Summer Side Hustles
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Become a coupon queen or king.
Make it a point to look for freebies, online coupon codes, grocery store coupons for items you already buy.
Reduce your usage by 10%
Whether it’s gas for your car, electric service, or building a frugal grocery budget, aim to save 10% off of one budget category and divert the extra savings to your yearly goal.
Set up automatic savings withdrawals.
Don’t let your savings goals slide when you’re trying to make your money situation better. Pick a day every month to sweep your savings into a dedicated account without you having to even think about it. Personally, I keep my savings accounts in an online account that does not have debit card access so I’m not tempted to use the money so readily.
Organize for tax time now.
Start a taxes folder with expense receipts, end of the year statements, and W2s so you have everything in one place come tax time.
Forecast your tax liabilities for next year.
Using your final paystub of the year and any year end bank and investment statements, check out the IRS withholding calculator to forecast how much you’ll owe in taxes before you file.
Learn how to do something yourself that could save you money.
Most people are willing to pay for convenience, but doing it yourself could be a major boost to your finances. Whether you pay someone to cut the lawn, cook your food, or clean the house, find one or two services you pay for and save by doing them yourself this year.
Download a budgeting app.
I live and die by my smartphone – my life is on that little device! So it’s the easiest place to keep track of my budget, too. If you’re not using a budgeting app yet, I really recommend YNAB (You Need a Budget). Their service helps on smoothing out cash flow and ensuring you’re never behind on your bills.
Save up money for something you want before you charge it to a card.
Simply putting the money aside for everything you buy AS YOU BUY IT will help you avoid going into debt and will simplify your expenses immensely. It’s a natural check on spending since if you don’t have the funds, you can’t make the purchase.
Bring coffee/tea/beverages and lunch to work.
Eating out can be a major budget buster for a lot of people (me included!). If you save eating out for special times instead of spending $10 or $15 a day on coffee and lunch, it’ll be more personally rewarding and save you cash, too.
The simplest way to cut back on food expenses is to bring your own beverages and food from home whenever possible. It’s much less expensive to shop at the grocery store than it is to eat out.
Resolve to live with what you need, rather than what you want.
It’s easy to become focused on what we want, what we see, and what we’re exposed to.
But if we resolve to only use the things we need – and thoughtfully save for a few of the things we want – we’re much more likely to feel gratitude for the abundance in our lives. To help me with feeling thankful for money, I use a gratitude journal every day. It’s one of the best ways to improve your finances while spending very little.
Getting everything you want can make it difficult to feel grateful for the essentials in life – food, water, companionship, safety.
So strive to focus your finances on being grateful for your needs, and life will be a lot simpler.
Do you have any strategies for improving your finances? Let us know your tips in the comments below!